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LOG TRUCKERS, MILL WORKERS PROTEST AT NAVAJO SESSION

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Giant logging trucks rolled into the Navajo tribal capital as timber workers protested delays in approving logging permits and to voice dissatisfaction with managers of the tribal mill.

Seven trucks operated by independent Navajo logging contractors parked outside and about 75 loggers, mill workers and relatives protested at a meeting of the Navajo Nation Council last week.Protesters carried signs with slogans attacking both mill managers and tribal President Peterson Zah, who they said had failed to act on the problem.

Protesters said overpaid managers at the Navajo Forest Products Industries mill in Navajo, N.M., could ruin the town by closing the mill.

Mariam Begay said her husband, Nelson, had been notified he would lose his job of 35 years when the Navajo Forest Products Industries mill there closes permanently Sept. 2.

"There is a great displacement of families," she said.

The logging operation owes the tribe millions of dollars in unpaid loans and $6.7 million in "stumpage fees" for cutting trees on the reservation.

The Council voted to hear a report from NFPI employees but has no other action on the mill or timber sales on the agenda of it's two-day session, which was called to appropriate money for construction projects.

The loggers complained of delays in getting approval of timber sales in the Chuska Mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico line.